March 11, 2013

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are orphans determined to help out their new family by joining the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. But when they vow to make a name for themselves, they have no idea it's going to be such hard work! They launch themselves into the world of show business, complete with working papers, the glare of the spotlight, and practice, practice, practice! Pauline is destined for the movies. Posy is a born dancer. But practical Petrova finds she'd rather pilot a plane than perform a pirouette. Each girl must find the courage to follow her dream. (Source: Goodreads)

My Thoughts
To be honest, even though I spent my childhood and young adulthood with reading children’s classics, I had never heard of Noel Streatfield until I saw the movie You’ve Got Mail (1998), by which time I had attained full age already. Nevertheless, Meg Ryan’s enthusing about Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes made me want to read it, but somehow life prevented me from reading it. Several years later, a good friend of mine presented me with this book, but I still wasn’t able to read it, because I was writing on my doctoral thesis at that time. But last year, upon joining the Classics Club, I decided that this novel will be among the first classics, which had been sitting on my shelf unread, that I will read for the Classics Club challenge. I had been looking forward to reading it for so long, and was so sure that I will love it. But I didn't. I am very sorry to admit that this book was really disappointing.

I have been taking ballet classes for 10 years as a child and for 10 years as an adult, so I know this world to some extent, even though I’m not and have never been a professional ballet dancer. Hence, what I expected from a book that bears the title “Ballet Shoes” was that it conjures up the beautiful and at the same time cruel world of ballet. But Noel Streatfield’s little book completely failed that. There are no descriptions of ballet classes or even ballet performances. The magic world of such wonderful ballets as the Nutcracker or Cinderella that usually feature many children dancers, are not brought to life in this book. And, even though it is implied that all three children had to learn to dance en pointe, Streatfield doesn’t provide us with a description of their difficulties with pointe work or the injuries they would necessarily suffer. Moreover, Posy, who was born to be a ballet dancer, never gets the centre stage. Even though she is so talented that the principal of the ballet school gives her private lessons, nobody can see Posy actually dance. Her dancing skills remain clouded in mystery.

Maybe my disappointment wouldn’t have been that great, if I hadn’t known another book, written for young adults, that is unsurpassed in its depiction of the ballet world. One of my all-time favourite books, Martina újra táncol [Martina Dances Again] by Jarmila Dédková, tells the story of a young and very talented prospective ballet dancer who loses both of her parents in a car accident and wants to give up her career because she believes that her late mother, who was a principal dancer, killed herself when she learned that her career is over. This book, in contrast to Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes, gives detailed descriptions of ballet classes and performances without becoming boring. It’s a shame that it never has been translated into English. But let us return to Streatfield’s book.

My other problem with the Ballet Shoes was that I somehow wasn’t able to build up a relationship with the three heroines. I don’t think that it would be my age or my different circumstances that prevent me from being able to relate to Posy, Petrova, and Pauline. I have truly enjoyed reading A Little Princess by F.H. Burnett, which is also a children's classic, even though my situation could not be more different from Sara’s. But, maybe three heroines in one book are simply too much to handle; one cannot describe the feelings of all three in every single situation and one might fall short of developing the characters, which ultimately leaves the reader unsatisfied.

For all these reasons, I’m giving this book three cherries only, as I’m almost sure that I won’t re-read it. And, it is also rather unlikely that I will ever read any other book by Streatfield. Finally, I would recommend this book only to children and only if there are no other books to read.

Favourite Quotes
"Do you think Peter Rabbit good reading? I would have thought a person who taught literature was too grand for it."
"Not a bit—very old friend of mine." (p. 29)
Never forget that an actress can always learn until her last hour. (p. 104)

Rating:
Title: Ballet Shoes
Author: Noel Streatfeild
Publisher: Yearling
Release Date: 2003
Format: Paperback
Length: 233 Pages
ISBN: 978-0679847595
Language: English
Source: Owned

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